September 24, 2010
Posted by Danny
In the realm of Superhero comic fandom, it used to be that you were in one of two camps: you were either a “Marvel kid” or a “DC boy”. Speaking for myself, I am resolutely and passionately in the latter camp and have been so since the late 1970’s when my discovery of Superman comics (Thanks, Dad) dove-tailed neatly with the release of Superman: The Movie in 1978 – an almost magical experience, I add, because Christopher Reeve looked so similar to the Neal Adams and Curt Swan-rendered Superman comics I was reading, my infant mind (I was born in 1974) still processing the new spectacle of cinema, made me think that Superman was real. How could I not be hooked after a genuinely awe-inspiring moment like that…?
Since then, I have been a fervent devotee of DC Comics and it’s myriad characters – primarily the flagship duo of Superman and Batman – and have been fascinated by the company, based in New York, that created the superhero concept and who have pioneered what I fervently believe is a modern mythology. Fifteen years ago, when DC Comics celebrated its sixtieth anniversary, comics historian Les Daniels wrote an excellent illustrated history of the venerable superhero comic publisher, providing a fine overview of DC’s legendary comics output. This year, as DC celebrates 75 years of publishing, they’ve teamed up with renowned German art publisher Taschen to publish a history of DC that is as epic as their world-renowned characters and frankly, makes Daniels’ book look like a pamphlet in comparison. Feast your eyes, my fellow fanboys, on this…
Beautiful, eh? Although: the above picture doesn’t adequately showcase just how vast this book is. Big enough to justify having a box to fit in, 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking, which is published in mid-October, is an oversized hardcover measuring 11.4 x 15.6 inches and containing a whopping 720 pages (!), showcasing more than two thousand images. Of course, anyone who is familiar with Taschen’s gorgeous books is aware that such lavish production values are very much the publisher’s stock-in-trade. Also: given that Taschen – celebrating its own 30th anniversary – actually started out as Taschen Comics (owner Benedickt Taschen is a noted enthusiast of the medium), there’s a pleasing symmetry to this release. It’s obvious that it’s been a labour of love.
The book has been written by a man who has literally devoted his entire professional life to DC Comics: Paul Levitz (pictured left – and see? I told you it was huge!) first worked as an assistant editor to Joe Orlando before becoming editor of Adevnture Comics shortly before his 20th birthday in 1976. He then worked his way up the company – including being group editor of the Batman titles – before finally becoming President and Publisher in 2002, a post he held until last year. Levitz is one of few people who can provide an insight into DC from the ground up and over a period of massive development in the company and sweeping changes in the industry itself. He contributes a 32,000 word chronicle of DC’s history and, of the book’s overwhelming visual content, Levitz says: “Taschen have found stuff under rocks and we didn’t even know where the rock was, much less what was under it…! There’ll be things that no matter who you are, you won’t have seen before.” Having seen an early PDF proof of the book, I can assure you that he’s not kidding: they’ve unearthed some absolute gems, magnificently reproduced via digital technology. Here’s a sneak peek of some of the book’s gorgeous imagery:
(Huge thanks to Shelley Halperin-Smith at Taschen UK for generously providing the above imagery)
As well as their reputation for high quality, Taschen are also known for their reassuringly-expensive price tags and, sure enough, this glorious paean to DC will set you back no less than £135 – shudder! – which may be a considerable stumbling block for most fans (although Forbidden Planet have it at a somewhat less sweat-inducing £85). However, as the owner of a few of Taschen’s high-end Film titles, you’re in no doubt that you pay for what you get: a deliriously well-crafted, imperious and thoroughly eye-catching addition to your library as well an utterly-invaluable source of reference. It’s a real thrill to see that DC is getting the royal Taschen treatment and, if you love their stuff like I do, this is new benchmark of “must-have”…!
I’ll be interviewing Paul Levitz about 75 years of DC Comics – as well as his 35-year career there – for the forthcoming issue of Comic Heroes magazine and will review the book on here once it’s released, so stay tuned!